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Key to Healthy North Dakota Hearts: Workplace Wellness

PHOTO: Healthy workers are happier and more productive, and a new set of recommendations from the American Heart Association gives companies in North Dakota guidelines on how to best design and measure workplace wellness plans. Photo credit: Reyner Media/Flickr.
PHOTO: Healthy workers are happier and more productive, and a new set of recommendations from the American Heart Association gives companies in North Dakota guidelines on how to best design and measure workplace wellness plans. Photo credit: Reyner Media/Flickr.
April 14, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. - As the number of North Dakota businesses with workplace wellness plans continues to grow, a new set of recommendations has been released aimed at fulfilling the true potential of such programs.

The guidelines from the American Heart Association address gaps in common standards on the design and measurement of comprehensive workplace wellness programs.

Melanie Carvell, director of the Woman's Health Center with Sanford Health, says if employers adopt the guidelines they could significantly improve the cardiovascular health of their workforce – and their bottom line.

"Less turnover, being able to attract and retain employees as well as keeping them healthier. They're going to hit their safety targets," says Carvell. "They're going to have more employee engagement and productivity, and it's just good for both the employee and the employer."

Carvell says studies show that for every dollar an employer invests in the health of employees, they can get up to a $3 or $4 return.

In addition to being the director of the Woman's Health Center at Sanford, Carvell also leads the organization's worksite wellness efforts. She says the program is bringing good results, citing their latest screening that found more than 200 of their employees were pre-diabetic, which can be turned around with healthy lifestyle behaviors like proper nutrition and exercise.

"In that same screening, we caught 22 of our employees that actually had full-blown diabetes that had no idea," she says. "So it is a chance to get them into health coaching and chronic disease management, and make a huge difference in their health and quality of life."

Since so many people spend so much sedentary time at work, and out of work, Carvell notes that properly designed and effective workplace wellness plans can make a big difference toward the American Heart Association's goal of decreasing mortality from cardiovascular diseases by 20 percent by the year 2020.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND